Europe's growth just surged to a six-month high

Merkel Hollande RenziREUTERS/Andrew WinningItaly’s Matteo Renzi, Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Francois Hollande share a joke.

The Eurozone is now growing at the fastest pace in six months.

January’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for services and manufacturing just came in at 52.6, the strongest since July. Anything over 50 signals growth.

These aren’t the only good economic indicators out this morning: Retail sales in the eurozone grew at their fastest pace in nearly eight years in the 12 months to December 2014.

Germany, Spain and Italy’s PMI figures all beat expectations, while French services dipped back into recession territory (as had been expected).

Europe has been through some false dawns before: In 2010, a minor recovery from the financial crisis was killed by the European Central Bank’s early rate hikes. In 2013, when the eurozone came out of technical recession, the bloc saw very little growth. But these figures look pretty positive.

Here’s how it looks:

Spain is looking like Europe’s star performer once again. With a score of 56.7, it’s by some way the fastest growing major economy in the eurozone. Unemployment has now been falling for four straight months, according to the survey.

Despite that, Spain’s jobless figures run to more than a fifth of the workforce, so being the best in a pretty stagnant set of countries might be cold comfort. The PMI was at 54.3 in December.

Italy’s services sector reported a solid improvement in January, coming out of recession territory. The PMI figure for the sector rose to 51.2, with anything over 50 signalling growth. The figure was 49.4 for Italy in December

Germany’s services PMI number was was 54 in January, better than France and Italy but fairly modest by international standards. It rose from 52.1 in December.

France’s services sector fell back into recession territory in January, with a PMI of 49.4. In December, France’s PMI was just into positive territory at 50.6.

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